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The Mole

An American reality game show that aired on ABC.

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A brilliant and innovative program that never really got the attention it deserved--ABC's "The Mole"

  • Apr 15, 2010
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Rating:
+5
Reality programming can be very hit or miss at times. When it misses, it is spectacularly awful. But when it hits, it tends to be quite a thing of beauty. Back in January of 2001, a new reality show premiered on the ABC network. I was very intrigued by the promos for it and I thought I'd give it a shot. Little did I know that it would eventually go on to become one of my favorite reality tv shows of all time. It had suspense. It had mystery. It had strategy. It had all of the components of a truly wonderful and groundbreaking idea in the tv industry. It's too bad that the executives at ABC didn't feel the same way. I am, of course, talking about ABC's "The Mole".

The premise for this show is brilliant in its simplicity. You have a group of contestants working together to complete tasks in order to put money in a group pot. However, one of the contestants in the group is "The Mole". This person is a double agent working against the group in order to sabotage the game and prevent the group from putting money in the pot. The catch is none of the contestants (except for the mole him or herself) knows who the Mole is and they must take a quiz each week as to who they think is the Mole. The person with the lowest score on the quiz each week is "executed" and removed from the game. The last person standing at the end wins the money earned in the group pot and walks away with the satisfaction of figuring out the identity of the Mole. It's a simple concept that players can take and make very complex. In the five seasons that this show was on the air, you had players pretending to be "The Mole" in order to throw others off of the scent. You had the moles themselves act very un-mole like at times and even help put money in the group pot out of compassion for the team.  You had paranoia from the contestants about who they could and couldn't trust. From the moment I laid my eyes on this show, I knew it was something pretty special. Even Anderson Cooper (the host for seasons 1 and 2) and Jon Kelley (the host for season 5) added a level of sophistication and mystery to the franchise that helped make this show top notch (Ahmad Rashad, the host for seasons 3 and 4, didn't really do much for me. He was ok, but a little too goofy and ridiculous at times). Also, the viewers weren't told the identity of the Mole until the end of the season, which allowed the fans to play along as well. It was an interactive show that got everyone thinking. Overall, The Mole was an awesome program that really showed reality tv at its finest. 

Another reason why this show piqued my interest is because of the fact that contestants on this show are in control of their own destiny. There isn't some outside force that determines how far a contestant will go, as is the case with shows such as The Apprentice and American Idol. Also, there isn't as much of a clique mentality in this premise that can cut a contestant's run short if that person is not in the majority, as is the case with shows like Survivor and Big Brother. No, the contestant uses their test taking abilities to survive each week. It is their intelligence and their keen eye to detail that will help them be successful on this show. No one else controls a contestant's own destiny here except for the contestant him or herself. They are completely in control and that's why this concept is utterly brilliant. It truly is a game of skill and brain power. It's not a popularity contest where the one that everyone likes is the most successful. Rather, it is the most observant, detailed, analytical, and intelligent individual who will come out on top. It just doesn't get any better than that. 

It's unfortunate that the idiot executives at ABC really couldn't understand what a gem they had here with this show. In 2001, things seemed to be rolling along pretty well. The first season aired in early 2001 and the second season was all set to air that fall. However, due to 9/11, the show was put on hiatus during its second season and didn't return until the summer of 2002. Then they decide to make season 3 a "celebrity" season with a bunch of d-listers. Also, Anderson had left for CNN at that point, so Ahmad Rashad became the new host. Listen, I know that filling Anderson's shoes is not easy. He was such a wonderful host and not many people could do as great of a job as he did. I get that. However, they could have done a LITTLE better than Rashad. I mean, c'mon. The guy is kind of a laughing stock. Sure, he fit in pretty well with the goofy nature of the celebrities at times, but still, this show works best when a more serious and seasoned person is at the helm. Anyway, Ahmad hosted "Celebrity Mole Hawaii" back in 2003. Afterwards, the ABC execs promised that there would be another non-celebrity season soon, but instead we got ANOTHER celebrity edition a year later with Ahmad hosting again. The celeb editions were good and all, but I really feel that the exec's decision to start basing the show around d-list celebrities contributed heavily to its downfall. The show became more of a joke than a competition at this point unfortunately. After "Celebrity Mole Yucatan" wrapped up in 2004, we didn't get another season of The Mole until the Summer of 2008 and this final season only came about because of the writer's strike. The ABC execs had to fill in some gaps in their programming as a result of the strike and this was their choice. The 2008 season had a brand new host in Jon Kelley and it really brought back a lot of the excitement and suspense I had seen in the earlier seasons of the show. Also, the celebrities were gone this time around and we were back to regular people playing the game again. However, this was The Mole's final hurrah. After the strike was over, ABC didn't need filler shows anymore and this one bit the dust. I had always hoped that this show would make a permanent comeback, but alas, it wasn't to be.

In its entire run, the Mole was treated pretty badly. ABC just didn't know what the hell to do with this show. They had such a great thing going here and they completely blew it. How in God's name does ABC choose "The Bachelor" over a complex and truly unique program such as this?  I get that the bachelor brings in more viewers and all, but with the right promotion vehicle behind it, I really think that "The Mole" could've been just as successful. ABC just didn't get it and that was the problem. It's a shame. If the Mole had been on CBS, there's a chance it could have done much better. CBS has competitive reality shows such as Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race that have had multiple seasons and a sense of stability about them. The Mole never got to that point because it had the misfortune of belonging to a network full of dimwits. Oh well. That's how it goes. I hope this series reemerges one day. However, knowing ABC, I doubt that will happen. Either way, we had five seasons (some better than others) and that's better than nothing, I suppose. This show will go down as one of my all time favorite reality programs that truly did try something new. The Mole will be missed, but never forgotten.


 
A brilliant and innovative program that never really got the attention it deserved--ABC's

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April 20, 2010
Excellent review of a terrific shows (at least in the early seasons). I loved Anderson Cooper as the host and the show really held my interest. It was fun to try and guess the Mole. Too bad it's gone.
April 25, 2010
Yeah, I agree. I wish it would have lasted longer and had more seasons. It really was ingenious in a lot of ways and it was much better than most other crappy reality shows on tv today, lol.
 
April 15, 2010
Great review, Pard. I remember seeing an episode of this way back when it first came out. It never really caught my interest like it did you, though.
April 16, 2010
Yeah, this show had the best premise of any reality show I've ever seen. I liked it even more than Survivor. But the ABC execs just didn't understand its potential. I remember being infuriated over "The Bachelor" getting more air time and focus than this, lol. They're going to honestly choose some crappy dimwitted dating show over an ingenious concept such as this? "The Bachelor" would always come on at either 8 or 9, which is a great prime time spot. The Mole, however, would always get the 10pm slot with little promotion. It was almost like it was tucked away as an afterthought, which I didn't like very much. This show really should've been bigger than it actually was. I couldn't resist writing a review on it, lol. :-)
April 16, 2010
I hate it when networks do that with shows. It's like they expect them to fail! Fox did the same thing with the Sarah Connor Chronicles; when you give a good show a bad time slot, it's really not their fault if they fail! I do recall "the Mole" being on late too! I can't believe there was something you liked more than "Survivor!!" That's crazy!
April 18, 2010
Yeah, there were a few reality shows I liked more than Survivor, but not that many. This was one of them. I agree that giving it a bad time slot sucks because it never gets a chance that way. Oh well. It is what it is.
April 18, 2010
What other reality shows did you like more than Survivor? Now, I'm curious!
April 18, 2010
lol. Well, I like Big Brother a little more than Survivor, but that show would bore you to death, lol. There was also a show called "Murder in Small Town X" which aired for only one season back in 2001. That was another ingenious show that I liked more than Survivor and I wish it had more seasons. It was the mixing of a reality show with a murder mystery. I enjoyed that one quite a bit. I might write a review on it at some point in the future.
April 19, 2010
I've heard things about "Big Brother," but nothing that strikes my fancy to watch the show. I've never heard of the other one. I wonder why it got canceled.
 
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I'm a 29 year oldwhoenjoys reviewing certainreality tv shows and scifi programming. I also post reviews on other topics every now and then as well. I enjoy being here on Lunch and interacting with … more
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 The Mole is an American reality game show that aired on ABC. It was based on The Mole franchise of programs that have aired in numerous countries. The Mole was produced by Stone Stanley Entertainment for its first four seasons. It was cancelled but was later picked up again after a four year hiatus. The fifth season was produced by Stone & Co. Entertainment.

The series is a reality competition in which the contestants work as a group to add money to a pot that only one of them will eventually win. Among the contestants is one person who has been designated "the Mole" by the producers and is tasked with sabotaging the group's money-making efforts. At the end of each episode, the contestant who knows the least about who the mole is, as decided by the results of a quiz, is eliminated from the game.

The series was first hosted by news reporter Anderson Cooper; for the third season, Ahmad Rashād replaced Cooper, and Rashād was in turn replaced by Jon Kelley for the fifth season. The third and fourth seasons featured celebrity contestants instead of average citizens. The series' logo is a bright green thumbprint.

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